Is Your ‘Great’ Invention Really a Great Product?

Every day thousands of inventors have that ‘aha’ moment when they wake up, take a shower, or are driving to work: that next great invention – the world awaits!

Your inspired idea might truly have the makings of a great invention:

  • Offers a new, innovative solution to an annoying problem
  • Could be packaged and sold to consumers everywhere

Unfortunately, many great inventions are not great products. Inventors may spend years developing a truly elegant invention only to find they cannot sell it: because it doesn’t meet the requirements of a great product!

What Makes a ‘Perfect’ Consumer Product?

The perfect consumer product is somewhat akin to a unicorn – a mythical, magical fantasy beast that doesn’t exist in real life. But it is possible to list the key factors of a perfect consumer product – a sort of scorecard – then to compare your invention to see how well it stacks up (or doesn’t).

In no particular order, here are key elements for the perfect consumer product:

  1. Sells to almost all  males/boys
  2. Sells to almost all females/girls
  3. Sells for $19.95 or less at retail stores
  4. Takes up minimal shelf space – lots can fit on a small shelf
  5. Benefits are immediately obvious – little or no explanation required
  6. Solves an annoying problem in a simple, elegant way
  7. Is not seasonal – sells year round
  8. High consumption factor – consumers use and buy again frequently

As mentioned, no single product checks all of the above boxes, but strong consumer products match up to many of the above.

To illustrate, let’s consider two different products and see how they score on the 8 parameters above:

  • A ‘sippy’ cup that allows toddlers to drink with no risk of spilling the contents
  • A floating beverage holder for a swimming pool or other water event for adults

Regarding the sippy cup, it could easily sell to parents of male or female children, could easily sell for less than $19,95, doesn’t take up much shelf space, the benefits are obvious, does solve an annoying problem, is not seasonal, but might not be ‘consumed’ multiple times per year. Therefore, the net score is 7 out of 8 points possible – very good! The sippy cup would appear to be a great invention and a great consumer product.

Even though the beverage holder is similar in many respects to the sippy cups, it doesn’t score very well as a perfect consumer product:

It doesn’t sell to all or most males and females (only those who own swimming pools or are very aquatically active. Zero points so far. It could sell for less than $19.95, take up little shelf space, the benefits would be obvious, and would solve an annoying problem. Score is now 4 points. Unfortunately, it is definitely seasonal (summertime mostly) and it wouldn’t be consumed and reused frequently. Final score is 4 points. The floating beverage holder could be a great invention, but not likely a great consumer product.

Know Your Niches

You may ask, “don’t niche items often sell very well?” Does a consumer product really have to sell to nearly everyone to achieve success? Niche items sometimes sell very well, but you must know your niches – it is always more challenging to sell to a niche. Some niches are great, others are not so great.

For example, tennis is a popular recreational sport for many people – about 18 million play tennis each year and spend about $487 million for equipment. Approximately 29 million play golf each year with the average golfer having an average household income of $95,000. Given that statistic, if your niche product sells to golfers, you likely have a much stronger market than if it sells to tennis players.

Make sure your great invention can also be a great product!

Stay tuned.

Posted in Invention | Leave a comment

Machu Picchu Adventure

I apologize that more time has elapsed since my last post that I usually allow. It has been almost three weeks. Yikes!

But, I have good reason.

On April 3 I left for an almost two week vacation with my kids (Victoria – 25 and Michael – 29) to southern Peru. This was a vacation I had planned for over a year, a chance for me to finally visit South America, to take my children along, and more particularly to see Cusco, Sacsayhuaman, and especially the ancient Incan temple of Machu Picchu.

The Andean High Life: 9,000 – 12,000 feet Elevation

We first arrived in Cusco, the longest continually inhabited city in the Western Hemisphere – over 800 years. Cusco, the capital of the once sprawling Incan empire (extended along virtually the entire western coast of South America in its heyday), is today a sprawling city itself with close to 500,000 residents. At 10,800 feet elevation, I found myself huffing and puffing when climbing long sets of stairs and various hills scattered about the city – even though I am in good physical shape (for a 61-year old).

We quickly decamped to lower elevation, via a Colectivo bus, to the Sacred Valley town of Ollantaytambo, at a mere 9,100 feet elevation. The gushing rapids of the Urubamba River flows throughout the Sacred Valley. Very early the next morning we took the Peru Rail train to Aguas Calientes, at the foot of the Machu Picchu temple area.

We spent most of the day hiking up (a lot) and down over the ruins and ancient relics of Machu Picchu. We managed sun for about two hours after which the fog and then rain set in, but we made the best of it. The craftsmanship of the stone work from the mid-1400s with huge boulders carved and fitted as tight as a credit card was amazing to behold. I’m not sure we could accomplish such a feat today. The Incans were also great agrarians: they developed well over 1,000 different varieties of potatoes!

We returned to Cusco via Inca Rail train and another Colectivo bus (transport in southern Peru is quite good – though trains are pricey). We checked out all sorts of restaurants and had our share of Cusquena beer and Pisco Sours (really great), even a bit of coca tea (it does seem to give you energy for the high elevations). We also hiked up to Sacsayhuaman perhaps 1,000 feet above Cusco – another amazing archaeological site. One huge block at this site weighed an estimated 100 tons!

Next we took a 6 hour bus ride down to Puno in the Lake Titicaca area, via the Cruz del Sur bus. Cruz del Sur buses traverse quite an extensive network in South America and feature seat back entertainment (like airlines) and wide, comfortable reclining seats (not like airlines) – truly luxury on a budget. Lake Titicaca is the largest lake in South America and the highest navigable lake in the world at 12,500 feet elevation (more huffing and puffing was in order).

We finished our vacation with a couple days on Lake Titicaca visiting Uros Islands (which float entirely on reeds), Amantani Island (where we spent a night with a family) and also Taquile Island. Here, the natives speak not Spanish, but either Aymara or Quechua (the main language of the Incan empire).

We returned to Cusco via bus, then flew back home via Lima and Cancun.

I hope you enjoyed my little diversion into a travel vignette. I got to polish my Spanish (a lot) and gained a new appreciation for having a heater in my home. In the high elevation Andean plains, temperatures fall into the 30s and 40s at night, no one has heat, just heavy blankets on their beds.

A Call to Action

 

Here is my call to action to you.

Going on an exotic vacation may be expensive, but I’ll bet it is not nearly as expensive as you might imagine. Many people spend far more on a boat that never leaves the house or a luxurious big-screen television.

Remember, an entrepreneur is a person who works when most people are relaxing, does things most don’t want to do, so that later he/she may do things most people cannot.

Instead of watching an exotic locale on your TV, why not make plans for your next adventure. I can assure you three things:

  1. Your can afford it if it is a priority to you
  2. You will have priceless memories long after you return home
  3. You will never regret it

Aren’t you and those you love worth it?

Stay tuned.

Posted in Adventure, Cusco, Invention, Lake Titicaca, Machu Picchu, Peru | Leave a comment

Inventors – Why Your Friends are Your Worst Enemies

For over fourteen years, I made a living, first part-time and now full-time, from creative endeavors, most especially, inventing. It took me a few years to realize that many of foundational values of the corporate world, don’t work well at all in the inventing, creative world of product development. I eagerly learned new skills, but unlearning old precepts was difficult.

New Rules for the Inventor to Live By

Here are three new rules you must consider if you want to be a successful inventor:

  1. Your Friends are Your Worst Enemies
  2. Your Enemies are Your Best Friends
  3. Perception = Reality

 

How can I possibly suggest that your friends could be your worst ‘enemies’?

Let me illustrate with a story every parent has experienced. Your son’s team just lost a big soccer game against their cross-town rivals. When the rival team scored the winning goal against your son, the goalie, he felt humiliated, the whole team felt let down – they felt like “losers.” Indeed they were, but losers of one soccer game, not losers in life.

At that moment, the coach went to his car and gave everyone on the team a small trophy – a participation trophy. The team members felt happier for that moment. Because the coach felt their collective sadness and everyone had played so hard, he just wanted to make them all feel better.

But, really, he was in that moment not their best friend, but rather their worst enemy. They needed a stinging defeat to learn the lesson that life is tough and playing/working hard is essential but, hard work by itself can never guarantee success – in soccer or in the workplace. The enabling coach snatched that lesson away from them and in it’s place gave them the empty feeling of meritless trophies.

Unfortunately, adults receive such trophies all the time.

When you excitedly told your friends and colleagues about your new invention did any of them tell you it was a bad idea or simply say “I don’t get it, why would anyone buy this product?” I’m betting not.

Instead they probably said, “that’s interesting.” Or worse: “wow, that’s great, such a good idea, I wished I had thought of it!” Friends, colleagues and often loved ones will never honestly critique your invention, they don’t want to hurt your feelings. But you need honest critiques, not fawning praise or admiration, which leads me to my next point:

Your Enemies are Your Best Friends

More accurately stated, critics are an inventor’s best friends.

Why? They give you their honest, unadulterated opinions about your invention, whether it is positive or negative. Like the kid on the soccer field, you do not want to hear there is anything wrong with your fantastic invention.

But, their criticism may be right on target. Perhaps your price point is too high. If so, your sales and profits will suffer. Maybe your product is too complicated and will confuse prospective buyers. Confused people do not buy. It could be that your product seems very similar to other products in the marketplace.

The good news is you can fix all of these problems if you are aware of them.

By substituting  cheaper materials, your costs may be reduced substantially – many products that sell briskly at $19.95, will languish and die on shelves at $29.95. Maybe you can simplify your product to essential elements, reducing complexity and cost. Lastly, it may need to be differentiated more clearly from other products to sell successfully. Going ‘back to the drawing board’ can often be the best thing for your product and for you.

All of the above assumes that your critics are right.

What if they are wrong and you are right? It happens all the time, it happened to me. But every criticism has at least a grain of truth to it, leading me to my final point.

Perception = Reality

If critics perceive your product is too big/expensive/confusing – they may be completely wrong, but here is the problem. What if a lot of other prospective buyers have the same perceptions? People make buying decisions based on feelings and perceptions, not on facts. This is why perceptions, whether right or wrong, become reality. For much more information on this, read Buyology by Martin Lindstrom.

My invention, the Wonder Wallet has been a big success in the marketplace. But it took me a very long time to make that happen. Why? People perceived that it was too big to fit in their pocket – because it is a bit larger in physical size than other wallets. They were, of course, wrong and I knew they were wrong. It made me angry, to be honest.

But, because perception = reality, I wasted years attempting to get my wallets directly into retail stores. In such stores, many buyers would think the wallets were too big, unless I could somehow educate them otherwise. I had to take a different path to find success.

When I took the wallet onto QVC it sold very well, because I could show buyers how it worked and then viewers knew it wasn’t too big. When it was later advertised via thousands of television commercials via DRTV, all those same retailers were happy to take my product. Perception = reality may mean you must make a course adjustment to achieve success with your product. I learned, albeit the hard way, and so can you.

Stay tuned.

 

Posted in Attitude, Behaviors of success, Benefits are easily demonstrated, Criticism, Critiquing ideas, Dealing with rejection, Disappointments, DRTV, Invention, Inventor enemies, Inventor friends, Paths for your product, Perception = reality, QVC, Rejection, Sell on TV, Strategy, Turning setbacks into success | Leave a comment

Inventor’s Story: from the Pits to a Peak

I decided to tell a bit of my personal story because I think mirrors the experiences of many entrepreneurs and, especially, inventors. I will set the stage a bit like a novel with three different timeframes and what was going on in my life during each.

September 2009

I had left a full time job in telecom to finally sell my invention – Savvy Caddy thin wallets on QVC.

I had devoted every free minute during the last 7 years to develop and sell my wallets in flea markets, fairs, online, wherever I could. But, working 55 hours per week in telecom left few hours for rest, and fewer hours for working my invention business. The Savvy Caddy venture had languished as a result.

QVC represented a real opportunity to revive my business and take it to the next level. I excitedly took the leap to go full-time in my business, to finally leave the stress and bureaucracy of the corporate world behind. I knew it would take some time, maybe 3 years, for my business to pay what I had earned in telecom, but I was ready to take a chance.

March 2013 – The Pits

QVC had been good, over 2 years, I had sold over 5,000 wallets. But that was far from enough to keep me and my business afloat. My choices were limited, I had borrowed to keep my business afloat and pay the bills. My business and personal debt had ballooned to over $100,000. I felt I was in a dark tunnel and thought I might never get out of debt or to any kind of financial stability. The corporate world didn’t seem so bad after all by comparison.

I became a sort of traveling salesman, selling Savvy Caddy wallets at AAFES military bases in San Antonio, Oklahoma City, and Shreveport. Every week, I worked two days a week as a business counselor. Then, I hit the road for 5 days to sell at an AAFES military base (most of the time in San Antonio). On weekends, I sold my wallets at gun shows. I was working 7 days per week, 12 – 15 hours per day selling as much as I could whenever I could to keep the lights on and the bills paid – barely. I spent more time on the road than at home every month.

I wrote in my journal (slightly redacted):

I am at Randolph Air Force Base, it is cold and raining and hardly anyone in the BX except for me and other vendors. I have sold 2 wallets all day long, wow, $50. Here are my thoughts:

  • Being away from home all the time is stressful, no fun at all.
  • Traveling so much racks up travel and living expenses even when wallet sales aren’t good.
  • I am getting older and being on the run, with poor diet, no exercise and little sleep is taking a toll on me.
  • I’m barely making ends meet each week and each month.
  • If I were truly sick or ill for a week it would be a financial disaster for me and my business.

March 2016 – The Peak

In three short years things had changed dramatically for the better.

I worked hard to finally license my wallet design to a large infomercial company. They marketed the wallets, now called Wonder Wallet, in just about every retail store across the US and many in Canada and internationally. My royalty checks allowed me to do wonderful things like pay off all my business and personal debt, give more significantly to charitable causes and take a nice trip – to Australia for three weeks.

I wrote in my journal:

I’m in Cairns, Australia and my Aussie adventure is nearly complete.

Yesterday, I went out on a boat and snorkeled around the Great Barrier Reef. It was gorgeous and amazing to see. When I was in Sydney for 3 days, I drank a few brews in The Rocks district, had dinner one night at a restaurant where I roasted my own steak over a barbecue bit. I went to the Outback and visited Ayers Rock. Then out to Perth on the west coast – a gorgeous place.

I came back to Melbourne and enjoyed a few brews on the Yarra River with friends. Next I went to Brisbane, and finally to Cairns. Tomorrow it’s back to Sydney and a 16 hour flight back to Dallas-Ft. Worth. Life is good, mate!

My Conclusion

I hope my story inspires inventors to try again, to not give up. I don’t recommend you follow my path, but if you work hard enough, you can indeed live a life many can barely imagine and will never achieve. To me, that is work some risk and a lot of effort.

 

Stay tuned.

 

Posted in Attitude, Behaviors of success, Criticism, Dealing with rejection, Disappointments, Invention, Keys to Success, Rejection, Setbacks, Strategy, Turning setbacks into success | Leave a comment

Inventors: How to Turn Setbacks into Success

I can tell a lot about an inventor based upon his or her attitude towards setbacks and more especially rejection. By ‘rejection’ I mean when a prospective retailer or licensee gives the dreaded ‘it’s not for us’ answer.

Inventors respond most typically to such circumstances in one of two ways:

  1. Frustration, anger, bitterness
  2. Determination – vowing to retool, rework and prepare for the next presentation

To be honest, 1. above is our natural default response to setbacks and rejection, especially when we had exerted a good deal of time, effort, and money into our pitch only to be rebuffed.

But, to succeed as an inventor, you must learn to rise above such circumstances; to pick yourself up, and start anew. Whenever a rejection comes your way – and they will come your way quite often – it means you much change something you are doing or saying.

But, the second attitude is much easier said than done. What does it take to transition from the natural negative emotions to a positive, almost stoic, attitude of determination and resilience?

Read on.

You Can Turn a Setback into Failure – or Success

Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, threats or significant sources of stress. It means “bouncing back” from difficult experiences. The good news is that everyone has some resilience and like any skill set, it can be strengthened and improved over time. Here is an article on 10 ways to improve resilience.

To prevent a setback from turning into a failure, I recommend you go into an important meeting with two plans: Plan A and Plan B. Plan A is what you will do if they say ‘yes’ – to chart out the next steps, etc. Plan B is what, specifically, you will do should they say ‘it’s not for us’ – what inventors dread most.

Like most inventors, for the longest time, I went to every meeting armed only with Plan A, there was no Plan B other than to gracefully depart the meeting. One day, I realized I was missing golden opportunities to garner valuable information regardless of their decision – yes or no.

There are two very valuable pieces of information you can get from every ‘it’s not for us’ meeting. You can ask them the following:

  1. What, specifically, would you say is the key reason you are choosing not to go forward with this product?
  2. If you were me and this was your product, what would be your next step to move forward with it?

1. is a great way to get them to tell you what you really want to know: why are they saying ‘no’ to your product? If you ask defensively, they will not want to hurt your feelings and you will learn nothing. But ask the same question in this sort of analytical format, they can hardly resist telling you what is their real reason. That is going to be very valuable information.

2. simply has you putting them in your shoes and asking them to recommend what you should do next to have a more positive outcome. This is almost always valuable information as well.

Once I changed my attitude towards ‘rejection’ in this way, I anxiously anticipated the valuable information I would garner from the meeting no matter what their decision was.

Try it for yourself!

Stay tuned.

 

Posted in Attitude, Behaviors of success, Criticism, Dealing with rejection, Disappointments, Invention, Keys to Success, Rejection, Setbacks, Strategy, Turning setbacks into success | Leave a comment

Business Success Secrets – for Free

My last post was all about resources for inventors (and entrepreneurs).

Business Success Secrets – for Free

 

Business training and education is a rapidly growing, multi billion dollar segment. Rapid technology advances mean that today’s knowledge cannot solve tomorrow’s problems: you must continually retrain and gain new knowledge and insights.

Business leaders spend thousands of dollars attending seminars and conferences from top-tier trainers and gurus – hoping to gain an edge over competitors. But, many solo-preneurs and small business owners simply have no budget for such training.

Do you ever wish there were a way to gain valuable knowledge at an affordable cost? Your wish has been granted! Read on.

Podcasts – Top Flight Training for Free

Below are some of my favorite podcasts (mentioned last week):

  • EOFire – a daily podcast of interesting entrepreneurs – only about 30 minutes each
  • This Week in Startups – Jason Calacanis is an amazing Silicon Valley success story
  • EntreLeadership – from Dave Ramsey’s group
  • Solopreneur – with proudly ‘unemployable’ host Michael O’Neal

There are dozens of others, but the above list is a great place to start. My personal favorite is EOFire – host John Lee Dumas, a phenomenal success story himself, will ‘ignite’ you into action.

I wanted to expand upon the brief discussion last week about podcasts and why I feel you must make them a part of your daily routine.

Business podcasters interview a diverse spectrum of business leaders from small startups to Fortune 500 CEOs. The leaders discuss what they have learned, the mistakes they made and what advice they would give to aspiring entrepreneurs. That is phenomenally valuable information and it is free for the taking, you just have to listen while you’re driving or in your home.

No Longer ‘Lost and Confused’

Six months ago, I had a vague sense it was time, once again, to reinvent myself.

I’ve done speaking and training for many years and I knew I wanted to tap those skills in my future endeavors, but I didn’t want to be an employee again: exchanging time for money. I like to write (as you can tell) and felt I would like to find a way to monetize that skill, but had no clear path forward. I also like time freedom of collecting royalties from a product or service – create something once, sell it many times.

I was figuratively ‘lost and confused’ – I knew generally what I wanted to do and why, but had no clear, concise plan as to how to shape a future venture around my aspirations. I’ll bet you can identify with that!

I started intently listening to business podcasts and one message came out crystal clear:

  • Don’t go it alone trying to find your own path: find someone who has already been there and follow them.

Via podcasts, I have learned over over 100 business leaders with skills in many different categories to help me with just about any need I have. Derek Doepker is a great guru for learning to publish eBooks on Amazon – he is helping me to get traction with my books. I wish to create and monetize my own webinars for inventors. Now I know that John Lee Dumas and a variety of others can help me move forward with that plan.

I at last earned how to develop my own website using Squarespace.com. I have finally build an email list and begun actively employing email marketing using AWeber.com.  This is just the beginning of my new e-commerce empire, but now I know what kinds of apps and Internet resources can help me and who can help and guide me along the way. I now have more resources than I quite know what to do with.

And you can too.

Just listen in to business podcasts via your favorite app such as Stitcher or NPR One. Good luck, and stay tuned.

By the way, my new unfinished website is here with lots of Australia pictures. Check it out.

Stay tuned.

 

Posted in Invention, Inventor resources, Podcasts, Surveys, Website for your product | Leave a comment

More Resources for Inventors

I have written a few posts about resources, many of which are free, readily available to assist inventors in developing their businesses. Below is the most recent post:

Resources Galore for Inventors – July 2016

The July post described resources that were specific to invention – people and companies that could help you move forward with your inventive enterprise.

In today’s post, I am going to take a broader perspective – resources for inventors and entrepreneurs. These are resources quite helpful not only to inventors, but to entrepreneurs in general – just about anyone who is operating their own small business, full or part-time.

Walking the Beach – Hoping to Find Sand

 

Saying to yourself, “gosh, I wish there was a resource to help me with x for my small business,” is akin to strolling across an ocean shore wishing you could find some sand. Look around. Great resources are everywhere!

I am an engineer, but not well-versed in software development.

So, when I needed a new website, I always found a developer – and spent a good deal of time and money paying that person to create my cyber vision for me. I kept thinking “there has got to be a better way.” It turns out there is: Squarespace and Weebly are both capable websites designed to enable you to build your own website, by yourself! You will have to invest some time learning to use them, but then you, like me, will be able to help yourself. I am especially fond of Squarespace as it seems to be very feature rich – but do your own due diligence.

Want some more great resources?

This is a short sampling, there are hundreds of great resources quietly waiting to be discovered in Cyberspace. I have personally used Aweber, Survey Monkey, PickFu, Unsplash, and Upwork for my projects, among others.

Want More? Learn from the Experts for Free – on Podcasts!

About 6 months ago, I found myself too often dwelling in the Netherland of negative thinking. I needed some positive jolt to charge up my daily entrepreneurial journey. I quit listening to the news – especially political news – and started listening to podcasts, specifically business podcasts.

What a transformation!

I have learned more about resources for entrepreneurs in the last 6 months than probably the last 5 years. Business podcasters interview business owners, entrepreneurs and other fascinating guests who share their experiences, both good and bad. Nothing is better than spending hours, effectively, learning from amazing entrepreneurs as they share their tips and tricks for success. Use the app you most prefer to get to them – I like NPR One as it is quite user friendly and easy to use.

Below are some of my favorite podcasts:

  • EOFire – a daily podcast of interesting entrepreneurs – only about 30 minutes each
  • This Week in Startups – Jason Calacanis is an amazing Silicon Valley success story
  • EntreLeadership – from Dave Ramsey’s group
  • Solopreneur – with proudly ‘unemployable’ host Michael O’Neal

There are dozens of others, but the above list is a great place to start. My personal favorite is EOFire – host John Lee Dumas, a phenomenal success story himself, will ‘ignite’ you into action.

By the way, if you would like to have a spreadsheet full of links to many resources for free, please drop me a line to alan-beckley@msn.com. Give me your email and I will send you the list.

Stay tuned!

Posted in Invention, Inventor resources, Podcasts, Surveys, Website for your product | 1 Comment